I am reminded of a young African-American child who was raised under strict family rules. During the early teen years from middle school and throughout high school, this kid was smart yet shy and often picked on and bullied by fellow classmates and even other children in the neighborhood where he lived. He found himself constantly frustrated, depressed, and left with a very low in self-image and esteem.
Life for this young teen reached its lowest point when he felt no love from his family and the bullying had taken its toll on his life. This young 16-year-old decided that life was not worth living and the only way out would be to take his own life so that the pain he felt would go away.
The young child decided not to go in the direction of suicide; but rather sought refuge in his religious teachings and started a journal as a way of releasing the pain and emotion that was inside of him. By doing this, he found solace and a sense of being heard and not judged.
He soon found the courage to stand up to his bullies but not in the right way. His mind was set on revenge and he packed a knife in his backpack throughout his high school years simply waiting for the opportunity to use it if pushed to the edge. His mind was still full of fear and his actions were unpredictable.
The young teen that I am speaking about is me (The BELIEVE Coach, Nicholas Dillon). Yes, I was a victim but consider myself a survivor. I realize now that the bullying game cannot be played without a victim and I was that victim. For bullies to gain power, they must first find an easy target to take power away from. Because of how I felt about myself and my self-image, I clearly must have worn a neon sign that made me a stand out.
Now, almost 30 years later, I am on a mission to ensure that the children I mentor and even my adult clients maintain a zero tolerance approach to bullying in their space and environment. My vision is to help potential victims not to become an easy target as it will make it a lot harder for bullies to take anything away from them.
If you are a parent reading this blog today, I encourage you to make sure you have an ongoing relationship with your child and that you pay attention to any changes in behavior. During my experience, I was able to camouflage my feelings and pain so that no one would know how I truly felt. However, I do believe my parents were aware of it. As a parent, do not expect your kids to figure out how do deal with a bully on their own. I learned that the hard way and believed that violence was my way out when in fact it was not. I was lucky nothing bad happened to me. Keep in mind that it is hard to be bullied and even harder to think clearly and come up with mature solutions that will work effectively.
I have provided some tips that I believe will help children as well as adults to stop the bullying:
- Take a zero tolerance approach to harassment and bullying in school or even the workplace. Make sure you have clear personal and professional boundaries. Ensure that your peers and co-workers are clear about your boundaries and the mutual respected expectations that go along with them.
- If someone is spreading rumors in school or on your job, do not participate and if so, suggest that the rumors stop. A rumor will only last until you say STOP. If you can convince your peers or colleagues not to participate then it dies. If you fuel the fire and spread untruths then you are just as bad as a bully.
- If you are considering revenge rather than getting someone involved who can help in a more mature and reasonable manner, then the bully has won. Feelings of revenge only come when you feel powerless. This is exactly how I felt and I was too afraid to seek assistance as it would really show a sign of my weakness. Talk to a teacher, principal, manager, supervisor, and most of all your parents or spouse. Never sit in silence.
- Build your personal confidence and self-image. Parents work on this with your children so that they do not fall victim to believing and living what others think about them. I was teased often and called many of names. It happened so frequently that I started believing all the rumors and the names I was called as I had no value placed on my self-worth or my self-image. For those in the workplace, know who you are and be ok with that. Stand your ground and refute negativity.
- Never feed it. Since we are in an age of social media and technology, remember that bullying has taken on a new medium and can become viral. If you do not feed it, it will soon die. The whole premise for the bully is to be able to feel power and impact. If that does not happen, it is not worth the energy.
- Never compromise who you are to be accepted.
- Never use avoidance or silence as the solution. The pressure will become too great.
- Learn leadership and confidence skills.
- Learn to love and appreciate yourself for who you are. Having a strong sense of self does not appeal to a bully. They seek out the week, isolated, and vulnerable.
These are but a few tips to help you defend yourself against bullies. Use these suggestions if you are bullied or if your child is bullied. Join me and no longer sit in silence.
Never be bullied into silence or allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. Don’t give anyone your personal power! I am a survivor!